The power of funding a cause
By Scott Dennis November 3, 2016
The private sector has been good to many of us, even in uncertain times most have managed to place their children into good schools and keep a roof over their head. For those who have achieved this American dream or built on the hard work of their blue collar parents an important expression of this good will is becoming a charitable donor. The ability to write off charitable donations on your taxes may make the process easy but the decision on what cause to support can be a challenge. There are many important and personal motivations for giving and most follow a trend, the five reason that capture the mind sets of the philanthropist are:
- I want to make a difference in people’s lives
- Supporting people I know and care about gives me satisfaction
- I have an emotional attachment to a cause
- I want to leave and legacy or a memorial to someone important
- It’s the civic duty to of those who have prospered to give back
What are non-profits?
It is important to the potential gift giver to know that non-profits are not created without the hard work of many dedicated people. The incorporation of a 501c3 (the IRS designation of a not for profit enterprise) can be a complex and costly venture, with very little financial return for those doing the leg work. Every group regardless of size is required to communicate their message, form a board of directors that supports the mission, create a business plan, calculate budgets and execute a smart marketing strategy; sounds like a private sector business! The key difference is that a non-profit is selling ideas, not products; ideas that have the potential to become engines of profound change in society. The way to get involved is for donors to add their names to the data bases of think tanks, charities or community projects that they feel strongly about.
What should you look for in an organization?
Since valuable time is being invested in a project that will promote the donor’s interests, it is vital to get to know the leadership. Typically an executive director or development officer will work to motivate gift giving, but it is also a best practice to research who is on the board of directors. A donor should ask themselves how the board members are supporting the mission. Do they all contribute money, time and contacts? Are they at the very least experts that are driving the narrative of the non-profit? Creating a relationship with the organization means showing up at events, taking the time to meet with the leadership and providing input when needed. This level of involvement should culminate in a firm understanding of the mission as well as the practical needs of keeping the non-profit’s operations going.
If the relationship between donor and the non-profit plays out correctly the director will eventually ask for a financial contribution. This can be a difficult and awkward moment for all sides as is often the case when it comes to money. By this point the nonprofit will have done their best to analyze the donor in terms of their accessibility, affinity for the project and capacity to give. A donors past behavior will dictate the scope of the gift request, have they attended all the events, have they given consistently and are they open about their capacity to give? As a potential donor it is right to expect that the non-profit leadership have viewed them as important enough for a relationship to be cultivated over time. When a financial gift is requested a firm grasp of how donations will be used to advance the goals of the organization should be clear and operational needs transparent. Providing a donation for your cause is a constructive investment of anyone’s time and money. Whether it is fulfilling a civic duty or helping people you feel connected to, the support of a non-profit is where prosperity in America comes full circle.
Scott Dennis writes for www.bluecollarthinktank @bcthinktank